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LaMelo unhappy with Hornets debut, but Borrego praises his potential
Ball leads Charlotte in rebounds and assists in loss
Published Sunday, December 13, 2020 8:00 am
by Herbert L. White

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, right, led the team in rebounds (10) and assists (four) in Saturday's 111-100 preseason loss to Toronto. The teams play again Monday at Spectrum Center.

LaMelo Ball didn’t need to score to make a point in his Hornets’ debut.

The first-round pick – taken third overall – led Charlotte with 10 rebounds and four assists in the Hornets 111-100 preseason loss to Toronto Saturday. Sure, the game didn’t count, but he had meaning for Ball and the Hornets, who hadn’t played competitively in more than nine months.

“It definitely felt good being out there,” Ball said. “I haven’t played in a minute, so it was definitely a blessing to get back out there and play, and slowly building chemistry with the team. It was nice out there.”

The Hornets were plagued by turnovers – Charlotte finished with 23 giveaways – which Toronto turned into points, which was the deciding factor. After nine months away from the court, there’s plenty to work on.

“Good start – I liked what I saw there,” coach James Borrego said. “Their pressure picked up and we didn’t respond appropriately. These are the growing pains that we’re going to go through early. I saw some good stuff, we’ve got a lot to clean up. We’ll add as we go, but it was good to see our guys play and compete out there for the first time.”

Ball, who was one of the biggest names in the draft class as well as being in the conversation as its best player, said he didn’t feel any extra scrutiny once he took the floor. The spotlight that goes with being a lottery pick with the expectation of transforming the Hornets isn’t where his focus is fixed.

“I wouldn’t say pressure,” Ball said of his 16 minutes of playing time. “It’s just basketball, so I go out there and play. How would I rate my performance? Not well, just because we lost. Whenever we lose, I don’t rate my performance well.”

Borrego was more upbeat, citing Ball’s passing and communication skills as worthy of praise.

“It was a good performance,” Borrego said. “First time out there, he looks like he belongs. Ten rebounds and four assists. I thought he was solid tonight and made some really good plays, good reads. He’s talking, and he’s communicating. He got dinged up there a little bit, so we didn’t push any more minutes on him, but I thought overall it was a solid performance to start.”

As much as Ball’s passing and vision were cited through the first week of training camp, he considered his debut as doing what’s necessary to succeed. His ability to get the ball to open teammates was noticeable in transition, an area the Hornets are determined to improve upon when they play the Raptors Monday.

“Growing up, always, was fast-paced,” Ball said. “Pass to the man in front. Just knowing how to play like that really I carried it on my whole life.”

As much as Ball made an impression as a facilitator, it was rebounding that really stood out. Officially listed at 6-8, Ball mixed it up on the boards, something that wasn’t necessarily listed as a strength in before the draft. To get into transition, he reasoned, you need to have possession of the ball.

“Definitely just try to get it and get out,” Ball said. “So obviously, if you get the first rebound then it’s easier to get out than having to wait on everyone to come back and get another rebound.”


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